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A guest feature by Littlestone.

The Rudston Monolith

To quote Wikipedia, “The Rudston Monolith at over 7.6 metres (25 ft) is the tallest megalith (standing stone) in the United Kingdom. It is situated in the churchyard in the village of Rudston (grid reference TA098678) in the East Riding of Yorkshire.”

So, to mark this year’s St Valentine’s Day, Moss and I decided to make the 30 mile drive over from where we live in North Yorkshire to Rudston village to see for ourselves the ‘real thing’. Nothing quite prepares you for this ‘real thing’. Photos of the monolith we’d seen before but first sight, and first touch, of this towering Neolithic edifice left us both speechless. If there’s ever a stone that puts its neighbouring church into a shadow this is it. And the fact that it’s stood there for some 4,000 years makes it even more awe-inspiring. As ever, the similarity with other subsumed (Christianised) sites in Britain, seems the same. The Rudson Monolith stands close to a water source. A Roman villa once stood close by and there are Roman tiles in the church walls. There are also the remains of a Roman sarcophagus in the graveyard.

Outlier stone and the remains of a Roman sarcophagus behind it

Googling ‘Rudston Monolith’ will throw up all sorts of info but what intrigued me most, being actually there on site, was the smaller outlier stone in one corner of the graveyard. The stone is of the same composition as the monolith itself and evidently was once situated close to it. Could it be the missing top of the Rudsone Monolith? Did it fall away naturally or was it cut off because it offended past norms of acceptability? Who knows, but here’s an interesting comparison from Brittany in France.

The Plonéour-Lanvern megalith in Brittany, France circa 1900
Collection Abbaey de la Source, Paris
The Bridge of Brodgar, Orkney in 1875 by Walter Hugh Patton (1828-1895)
Source Wikimedia Commons
For those interested in archaeology, and ancient Britain, tonight’s program on BBC TWO from 9.00pm to 10.00pm should make fascinating viewing –
Orkney – seven miles off the coast of Scotland and cut off by the tumultuous Pentland Firth, the fastest flowing tidal race in Europe – is often viewed as being remote. Yet it is one of the treasure troves of archaeology in Britain. Recent discoveries there are turning the stone age map of Britain upside down. Rather than an outpost at the edge of the world, recent finds suggest an extraordinary theory… that Orkney was the cultural capital of our ancient world and the origin of the stone circle cult which culminated in Stonehenge.
More here.
The Stone of Ballater by James Drummond (1852)
The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS)

Image credit The Times

We don’t often get involved with British political issues but when they sink to this level of gimmickry it really has hit rock bottom (pun intended) and something needs to be said. We refer to the Labour Party’s latest publicity stunt to win votes (election day in Britain is today) in the shape of an eight foot tall ‘megalith’ with six ‘promises’ from their party’s manifesto ‘engraved’ on its surface. Is the text actually engraved or has it been painted on? Or is it a transfer of some kind? If Labour wins the election however its leader Ed Miliband plans to erect the megalith in the garden of 10 Downing Street (assuming he’s able to get planning permission from Westminster City Council that is!).

The Urban Prehistorian sums up our own feelings on the Ed’stone gimmick perfectly when it writes –

Are we fooled by these megalithic metaphors of power and permanence? Do we accept that when a pledge is carved into rock by machine or chisel that it has more resonance and reliability than a promise spoken, a paper manifesto, a ministerial tweet? Would this infamous pre-referendum promise, printed in newspaper form just before the independence referendum in Scotland in September 2014, have really been any more trustworthy or powerful had it been carved on a tablet of stone?

No we are not fooled. Miliband’s promises are all very well and good but where is HERITAGE in all of this? In fact where is Heritage in any of the five or six main political party’s pledges? As a country we have not even ratified the Hague Convention to protect cultural property in time of war. Shame on our politicians for not doing so, and shame on the megalithic gimmickry this election campaign has sunk to.


The largest ancient stone block so far discovered was found in Baalbek, Lebanon at an altitude of approximately 1,170 metres
Image credit: Deutsches Archäologisches Institut
Not the stone on the left with two people standing near it – look again to the right, and down, where another monster megalith was discovered this summer. The second block is estimated to weigh a whacking 1,650 tons. “Archaeologists concluded that the block was meant to be transported without being cut. This means, that it is the biggest known ancient stone block.”
More from The Archaeology News Network here.
The Ishi-no-Hōden (石の宝殿) megalith in Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan
Image credit Miles Gray
The Ishi-no-Hōden megalith is thought to have been cut from its surrounding rock some 1,500 years ago and, if freestanding, would weigh in the region of 500 tons. It sits at the centre of a pond and appears to float above the surface of the water. As with many sacred objects in Japan (including natural objects such as trees) the Ishi-no-Hōden megalith is adorned with a sacred rice-straw rope known as a shimenawa. Milies Gray, on his website, describes the Ishi-no-Hōden megalith as –
A mysterious dug-out cube monument in a quarry. Known as one of the three greatest enigmas in Japan. Now worshiped as the god of the Ōshiko Jinja Shinto shrine. Although the structure of the top is concealed by pine trees, they suspect that there may be two holes like Masada-no-Iwafune and Kengoshizuka-kofun. The name of the nearest station is named after this site “Houden”.
The German doctor Philipp Franz von Siebold (1796-1866), who entered isolated Japan disguised as a Dutchman, later presented his drawing of Ishi-no-Hōden in volume 1 of his books “NIPPON” (1832).
Image credit 阿部 吾郎
 Ogam Stone
A 5th century Ogham Stone from Roovesmoor Rath Ring Fort, Coachford, West Cork, Ireland
Image: The Heritage Trust
An article in the Irish Examiner on Monday, 4 November 2013 by Marc O’ Sullivan, Arts Editor, begins with the statement that, “THE British are peculiar. Their desire to conquer the world has been matched only by their obsession with bringing bits of it home with them.”
The article goes on to say that –
Nowhere is this more evident than in the British Museum in London. Visiting it last week, my eye was drawn to a large slab of stone, about the height and width of a man, perched upon a formal plinth in the Great Court. It bore an inscription in ogham. On a plaque beneath, the crude translation of these elegant notches — read anti-clockwise — disclosed that the slab was originally raised in honour of ‘Vedac, son of Tob of the Sogain’. It was one of three 5th century ogham stones taken from Roovesmoor Rath — a ring fort outside Coachford, in West Cork — by the delightfully named General Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt Rivers. He presented the group to the British Museum in 1866.
The Roovesmoor Rath ogham stones were among more than 20,000 items of archaeological interest Pitt Rivers collected over several decades, and many of them are now housed in the museum named after him in Oxford. I’m sure he meant well in presenting the ogham stones to the British Museum, and because of his largesse many thousands, if not millions, of visitors are now aware of the ogham script, the earliest written record of the Irish language. But the stones belong in a rath in West Cork, not in a cultural institution in London.
But do they? As with the Parthenon (Elgin) Marbles we’re faced with the same questions: should objects be returned to their place of origin or is it better that they are seen and appreciated in a wider international context?
Full Irish Examiner article here.
Trevethy Stone, Cornwall, by Charles Knight (circa 1845)
Also known as King Arthur’s Quoit, The Giant’s House and Trethevy Quoit
Private collection, Great Britain
The Heritage Trust will be holding its Outreach Event in Cornwall this year. The event will begin with lunch (for those wanting one) at the Cheesewring Hotel in Minions, Liskeard on Friday, 21 June. We’ll meet at the hotel around 11:30am, leaving there around 1pm for a visit to Trethevy Quoit, then back to base at Minions for visits to The Hurlers, Pipers, Rillaton Barrow and Stowe’s.
There’s no charge to attend (and lunch, transportation etc is not included in the Event) just an opportunity to share ideas and socialise with likeminded people. Mr Roy Goutté, author of Trethevy Quoit: Cornwall’s Megalithic Masterpiece, will be our guide at Trethevy (and the other sites) and will be pleased to discuss his findings of the quoit while there (look out for a table with Roy’s book on it if you’re not sure who we are).
The fallen Wade’s Stone in March 2008ce
David Raven
Weighing in at 3,000kg and standing 2.12 metres high this 4,000 year-old megalith came crashing down in 2008 (due, is said, to a combination of ploughing and people climbing on it). Wade’s Stone, as it is know, is located at East Barnby near Whitby on the North York Moors has now been re-erected with the help of English Heritage, the North York Moors National Park Authority’s Monument Management Scheme and Tees Archaeology and once again stands proud along with its twin megalith some 1.4km away. Access to the stone is not possible although it can be seen from the A174 near East Barnby Outdoor Education Centre.
The re-erected Wade’s Stone in May 2013ce
Access to the stone kindly permitted to Trust members by the tenant farmer
The Heritage Trust
See the Resurrection of a fallen giant on the North York Moors National Park website for more on the re-erection of Wade’s Stone.

The 5,000 year-old Poulnabrone dolmen, Burren, County Clare, Ireland
Source Wikipedia. Image credit Kglavin

Ashleigh Murszewski, writing in The Heritage Daily at the end of last year, asks –

What was the significance of Megalithic Monuments in Atlantic Europe?
The construction of megalithic monuments in Atlantic Europe is not restricted to a single purpose, nor do they reflect one aspect of the community that built them. Contrarily, they give well-rounded evidence for practical and symbolic components of the early agricultural lifestyle within the Neolithic. Depictions in the architecture of these structures explore complex symbolism and the socio-ritual interactions where monuments offer places for gatherings. Furthermore, megaliths demonstrate understandings of geometrical and astronomical knowledge in society that was not thought to be established for centuries.
Megalithic monuments of Atlantic Europe have long attracted attention from those who are interested in the early past of mankind. The word megalith originates from the Greek, meaning ‘great stone’ and is used when describing stone structures set upright in the Earth dated from 5000 to 500 BC in Atlantic Europe (Balter, 1993).
These massive stone structures consist of some of the most famous and visually spectacular archaeological discoveries in the world and signify extensive technical ingenuity and organisation that would be essential to their construction. Their significance is also connected with the development and establishment of the first farming communities in the Neolithic, where their craftsmanship reflects the establishment of territorialism and community identity.
Full article here.
Subhashis Das at the megalithic site of Rola
Subhashis Das was born on 16 July 1956 in the State of Assam, North East India. He attended St. Xavier’s School, Hazaribagh, in the State of Jharkhand, East India. Subhashis graduated in history from St. Columba’s College, Hazaibagh, University of Ranchi. He obtained a Bachelor of Education degree from Annamalai University and subsequently worked in marketing for 25 years. Although Subhashis was not particularly interested in megaliths to begin with, general history, ancient races and civilisations, Indian tribes and their ancient myths interest him immensely. A sudden discovery of  a dolmen near his hometown changed him altogether and he left his job to become a full-time ‘megalith explorer’. To support himself during these activities he served as a principal in a high school for some 10 years.
His first book, Sacred Stones in Indian Civilization was published in 2009 and is the first book detailing megaliths in his home state of Jharkhand, and one of the first of its kind published in India. His next book, The Unknown Prehistory of Primitive India, is slated to be released in July or August 2013 and will include a few complimentary pages by Dr Terence Meaden. Subhashis Das’ website, Megaliths of India is the only one of its kind in the country and was created in August 2010.  Subhashis once engaged in professional music and played the guitar; age, however, ‘taking the better of me’ as he puts it, he is now more involved with the spiritual songs of Rabindranath Tagore (known as Rabindra sangeet). He is also interested in spiritualism itself, photography, writing poems and also loves to sketch. In his own words he will, “Walk miles with the wind on me. Walking in the rain or under the blue sky. Enjoying the sunshine, the call of the doves, talking to myself and meditating.”
Among his other accomplishments, Subhashis Das has discovered countless primitive megaliths across India, many of which are his own study sites. 16 years ago he found that not all megaliths were used for sepulchral purposes but that many were created for astronomical observations, and even to function as calendars. About the same time he discovered the astronomical significance of the megaliths of Punkri Burwadih, and also that the monument was used to observe the equinoxes and the summer solstice sunrises. He revived the ancient tradition of equinox viewing at this megalithic complex. Hundreds of people from all over the country gather to view the equinox sunrises at Punkri Burwadih twice every year, thus making Punkri Burwadih the only megalithic site in India used today for this phenomenon.
For a sample of Subhashis Das’ contributions to The Heritage Trust please enter Subhashis Das in our search box at the top of this page.
A guest feature by Littlestone.
Reporting in The Guardian on the 15 August last year, Mike Pitts writes that, “With its crumbling pillars and fading frescoes, the British Museum isn’t the first place you’d associate with Japanese graphic novels. So it’s a slight surprise to learn that the museum will soon publish its own manga-based book.”
It’s uncertain which crumbling pillars and fading frescoes Mike’s referring to as the structure of the Museum itself is sound and any light-sensitive objects are kept and exhibited in controlled environments. That aside, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that the British Museum is associated with Japanese graphic novels (in this case with the publication of Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure). Japanese graphic novels (manga) have been around for nearly 140 years, but their origins (outlined in Part I of this series) stretch back some two millennia in the form of handscrolls and, since the beginning of the 17th century, in the form of woodblock prints of the Ukiyo-e tradition. The British Museum’s collection of Japanese prints is world famous, but perhaps less famous is its collection of Chinese prints – ranging from early Buddhist texts to Communist revolutionary posters, and later still of prints by modern Chinese artists. With this in mind it’s again to the Chinese pictorial tradition that we look for more recent links to the phenomena of manga, cartoons and graphic novels.
Walk into any craft or artist materials shop today and you’ll be confronted with at least half a dozen ‘How to Draw Manga’ books. Before how to draw manga there were books on how to draw cartoons, but long before either of those there was the Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting (Jieziyuan Huazhuan  芥子園畫傳). The manual was first published in Jinling between 1679-1701 and became a well-known teaching aid for painters throughout the Far East
How to draw figures from the Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting. Author’s collection
Chinese calligraphy and ink painting are very closely linked; the same brushes, ink and paper (or silk) are used, and the same surety of execution is required for both. It’s not an exaggeration to say that a good calligrapher will also be a good painter (though not necessarily a good artist) as they are working within the same graphic tradition. The ink painting below is an outstanding example of an ancient graphic art tradition brought to fruition in the hands of a consummate artist, and it’s that same tradition that gave birth to the art of manga in Japan.
Woman with a saké cup. Attributed to Hokusai. Private collection
Hokusai was only five years old when William Stukeley died in 1765. Many readers here will be familiar with Stukeley’s accurate illustrations of Avebury and its surrounding area, so what to make of his 1759 sketch below – surely slightly tongue-in-cheek but if not definitely winning first prize in the oldest megalithic cartoon category!
The Druid Sacrifice of Yule-Tide by William Stukeley (inset). Note Avebury and Silbury in the background
Putting aside the strict definition of the word cartoon (ie a draft for a painting) and focusing on Europe in the mid-nineteenth century, we have in the cartoon, “…a piece of art, usually humorous in intent. This usage dates from 1843 when Punch magazine applied the term to satirical drawings in its pages, particularly sketches by John Leech. The first of these parodied the preparatory cartoons for grand historical frescoes in the then-new Palace of Westminster. The original title for these drawings was Mr Punch’s face is the letter Q and the new title “cartoon” was intended to be ironic, a reference to the self-aggrandizing posturing of Westminster politicians.”*
In Part I of this series we featured an 1879 cartoon from Punch of Stonehenge by Edward Tennyson Reed. Japan’s first manga magazine, the Eshinbun Nipponchi, appeared in 1874. The Eshinbun Nipponchi was heavily influenced by Japan Punch, founded in 1862 by the British cartoonist Charles Wirgman. In other words, it seems there might have been a cross fertilization of Japanese/Far Eastern graphic art traditions and Western satirical cartoons at play during this period, leading eventually to the Western cartoon and Japanese manga traditions we’re familiar with today. That cross fertilization is still at play. The British Archaeology magazine usually has a cartoon in each of its editions and, bringing the megalithic cartoon phenomenon up-to-date, this brilliant cartoon by Bill Brown in a Guardian Money supplement illustrates the on-going creativity of the manga tradition and the role that megaliths continue to play in it.
Illustration by Bill Brown
Links and further reading.
The Tao of Painting – A study of the ritual disposition of Chinese painting by Mai-mai Sze. This is an English translation of the Jieziyuan Huazhuan (Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting). Bollingen Foundation, Series XLIX. Princeton University Press, New York, 1956.
A guest feature by Littlestone.
The Ryōan-ji (竜安寺) Rock Garden, Kyoto Japan
“What’s so special about the garden at Ryoanji?” I asked him, naming the famous rock and sand garden in Kyoto’s most brochured and pamphleted Zen temple. “The spaces between the rocks,” he replied, with his mouth full of toothpaste.””*
The above made me wonder if there are any similarities between the rock gardens of the Far East and the megalithic structures of Western Europe? At first sight there doesn’t seem to be – the timeframe between the two, and their use, seem to set them far apart. The oldest Far Eastern rock gardens are probably no more than 1,000 years old and they are, basically, just that – gardens. Megalithic structures are, well, ‘structures’ of one sort or another. So are there any similarities between the two? Obviously there’s a shared interest in rocks – their shape and texture, maybe the place where they came from. The way the rocks are placed is important to both ‘traditions’, though the reasons for placing them in a certain way seem to have little in common.
Avebury in 1722. From William Stukeley’s Abury – A Temple of the British Druids

We don’t really know why megaliths were arranged in a certain way but it seems likely that one reason had something to do with an interest in astronomy; another reason perhaps was to do with ceremony – a place were people gathered at certain times. As far as we know the rock gardens of the Far East have nothing to do with astronomical observations, nor were they places where large numbers of people gathered; they were used for quiet contemplation by individuals, or a place where a small group of individuals might gather for the same reason.
Perhaps the one thing megalithic structures and rock gardens do have in common (today) is a place where people can meditate (in the widest sense of the word) and as such they may not be that far apart in the function they now serve.

* Alan Booth. Looking for the Lost: Journeys Through a Vanishing Japan. ISBN 1568361483.

A guest feature by Littlestone.
Obelix, from Asterix the Gaul. Image credit Albert Uderzo and René Goscinny
With the rise of manga, cartoons and graphic novels featuring megaliths as their central theme it might be of interest to look at some of the origins of this genre – starting not with manga, cartoons or graphic novels at all, but with a 13th century Japanese handscroll which portrays  animals (mainly hares, monkeys and frogs) in a satirical, manga-style. The scroll is known as the Chōjū-giga (鳥獣戯画) and the Wikipedia entry describes it as –
Chōjū-jinbutsu-giga (鳥獣人物戯画?, lit. “Animal-person Caricatures”), commonly shortened to Chōjū-giga (鳥獣戯画?, lit. “Animal Caricatures”) is a famous set of four picture scrolls, or emakimono, belonging to Kōzan-ji temple in Kyoto, Japan. The Chōjū-giga scrolls are also referred to as Scrolls of Frolicking Animals and Scrolls of Frolicking Animals and Humans in English. Some think that Toba Sōjō created the scrolls, however it is hard to verify this. The right-to-left reading direction of Chōjū-jinbutsu-giga is still a standard method seen in modern manga and novels in Japan. Chōjū-jinbutsu-giga is also credited as the oldest work of manga. The scrolls are now entrusted to the Kyoto National Museum and Tokyo National Museum.
Scene from the 13th century Chōjū-giga Japanese handscroll showing a monkey priest paying homage to a frog Buddha
Detail of the frog Buddha from the 13th century Chōjū-giga handscroll
Japanese handscrolls have their origin in Chinese handscrolls (usually depicting long landscape scenes which the viewer ‘travels’ through as he or she unrolls the scroll. The Chinese may in turn owe the origins of their own handscrolls to an even earlier Indian tradition (see the horizontal cross members of the 3bce Sanchi Gate in central India which show scenes carved in stone in the form of a formalised handscroll). What all these traditions, from the earliest handscrolls to the modern manga and graphic novels, have in common is an element of progression – from one scene, or frame, to another, pictorially and sequentially (see Links and further reading below, Far Eastern Pictorial Art: Form and Function).
A Cricket Match from Prehistoric Peeps by Edward Tennyson Reed. Punch Magazine circa 1890 
Pictorially and sequentially are the key words in manga and graphic novels, where the narrative flows from one frame to the next. Not so in standalone cartoons such as the Cricket Match above or STONEHENGE – AND WHAT IT MAY BECOME! below.
Manga and graphic novels don’t necessarily need to be long (nor contain a dialogue); comic strips such as the one below featuring Herman by Jim Unger deliver their message in just four frames…
Herman by Jim Unger
…while the Tom and Jerry special edition BT phonecard does it cleverly in just two (frame one on the recto of the card and the punch-line image on the verso).
Tom and Jerry at Stonehenge. Special edition BT Phonecard (recto)
Tom and Jerry at Stonehenge. Special edition BT Phonecard (verso)
In Part II of this series we’ll be looking again at manga, cartoons and graphic novels and showing how they continue to draw on the megalithic theme.
Links and further reading:
Avebury – Graphic Novel: A short novel about the mysterious village of Avebury by Tom Manning. Tom writes that, “This is a university project that was given out in order to induct us into the second year of the Illustration course. The theme of the project was that it should be based in the strange village of Avebury, north of Stonehenge, UK. Avebury is a very mysterious and ‘weird’ place filled with standing stones, deep trenches, rampaging druids and man made hills, there’s no knowing what you might find there. With this in my mind I planned to introduce Avebury as an isolated, desolate area of wilderness, not unlike ‘the Zone’ in the 1979 Russian film ‘STALKER’.”
Hoshino Yukinobu’s British Museum Adventure: an article by Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere (research director at the Sainsbury Institute, Norwich) in the September-October 2011 edition of the British Archaeology Magazine (pp. 32-35). The article provides a sneak preview of the English version of Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure (see below). Also a lecture given  last year at the BritishMuseum by Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere here.
hyōgu: the japanese tradition in picture conservation, Far Eastern Pictorial Art: Form and Function by P. Wills. The Paper Conservator Vol. 9. London: Institute of Paper Conservation, 1985, pp. 6-8.
MEZOLITH by Ben Haggarty and Adam Brockbank.
10,000 years ago, the Kansa tribe live on the western shores of the North Sea Basin, where danger is never far away. Each season brings new adventure, each hunt has its risks, and each grim encounter with the neighbouring tribe is fraught with threats. Poika, a boy on the verge of manhood, must play his part and trust the strength and wisdom of his elders. This is a tale of beasts and beauty, man, magic and… horror.
Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure by Hoshino Yukinobu. Published in English by the British Museum Press on 14 October 2011.
The Chōjū-giga by Tsuguro Miya. Volume III in the Japanese Scroll Paintings series. Kadokawa Publishing Co. Tokyo, Japan; 1959. In Japanese but with a three page introduction in English and five pages, also in English, of plate explanations.
The Kyoto International Manga Museum  (京都国際マンガミュージアム, Kyōto Kokusai Manga Myūjiamu) is located in Nakagyō-ku, Kyoto, Japan. The building housing the museum is the former Tatsuike Elementary School. The museum opened on November 25, 2006. Its collection of 200,000 items includes such rarities as Meiji period magazines and postwar rental books. The museum holds many items of historical, as well as contemporary, interest. Highlights of the museum’s collection include Japan Punch. Published by Charles Wirgman in Yokohama, it ran from the year Bunkyū 2 (1862) to Meiji 20 (1887).
Japan’s first manga magazine was Eshinbun Nihonchi from 1874. The nation’s first children’s manga magazine was Tokyo Pakku (established in 1907). Source: Wikipedia.


June 2022
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